Message of the UN Philippines Resident Coordinator for United Nations Day 2021
25 October 2021
Text of the Message of the UN Philippines Resident Coordinator, Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez, for United Nations Day 2021, as delivered:
Dear partners, colleagues, and friends. Good afternoon.
On behalf of the United Nations Country Team, I welcome all of you to the celebration of the UN Day.
Every year, we have the great honor of co-hosting this celebration with the Department of Foreign Affairs, led by Secretary Teddy Locsin, who is with us, today.
We live in exceptional times.
A global pandemic that has impacted on every single person; for some of us in the worst possible way -with loved ones lost- or with our own health compromised.
… and the pandemic has not only affected our daily lives, but also impacted on our future, compromising our dreams, our projects and expectations.
The crisis has delayed -and in some cases stopped and even reversed- crucial development processes.
In the case of the Philippines, initial UN assessments indicate that the pandemic may have set the country “as much as 10 years back” in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
… But we also know that “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors”. And the pandemic has highlighted what we need to do.
We must put people at the center of our actions to bring tangible improvements to people’s daily lives.
We must break down siloes across sectors, disciplines and institutions, because governments and people can no longer afford fragmented, piecemeal responses.
We must boost inclusive partnerships that benefit from the perspectives of youth, women, and those whose voices are rarely heard… such as workers or indigenous peoples.
And by the fact that we failed to anticipate the crisis….. we must shift our focus and allocate resources towards “prevention” to anticipate crises and reduce their devastating impact.
But the question here is if just “listing lessons learned” is enough to recover? And the response is “no”. Little can be obtained if the most critical factor for a transformation is not there: which is “leadership”.
We need leadership at all levels: from barangays to civil society organizations, from development agencies to businesses, from political parties to key decision makers.
Leadership that delivers “with a sense of urgency”, leadership that “communicates with transparency” and leadership that “builds bridges… not walls”.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the UN Country Team in the Philippines has been aligning its capacities, resources, and knowledge with the emerging national priorities.
By the end of last year, we were conducting more than 150 different initiatives to complement national and regional efforts “to leave no one behind”.
Through these joint efforts, more than 5 million at risk individuals were able to access essential health services,
More than 6 million boys and girls were supported with distance learning.
And more than 24 million doses of COVID19 vaccines were delivered by the COVAX facility, with the support of the UN. In doing that, we also shared our concerns on “inequity in access to vaccines”, even for the most vulnerable groups across the different regions of the country.
We also brought our global knowledge to support the progressive openings of schools; and we encouraged the government to consider a rapid expansion of the new pilot so more children can benefit from face to face learning.
The operations on the ground were complemented by a comprehensive update of our cooperation framework with the Philippines -to better adapt to context.
Our new “Socioeconomic and Peacebuilding Framework for COVID19 Recovery” is now fully aligned with national development frameworks and brings a value contribution close to 50 billion Philippine Pesos for the period 2020-2023.
This framework mobilizes cutting-edge UN expertise to join Philippines’ efforts to rethink food systems, expand social protection, harness climate finance, consolidate peacebuilding, foster human rights and address migration and population issues, amongst others.
On the human rights agenda, we recently signed the first-ever UN Joint Programme for Human Rights, an innovative and inclusive programme which seeks to address fundamental challenges through cooperation but also addressing root causes of violations. This is critical not only for human rights, but as a catalyst for reaching other development goals.
I very much appreciate the support from the international community to this joint programme, reflected last week in our member states briefing in Geneva.
On peace and security, we are enhancing our long-standing partnership with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and we will embark -with the assistance of development partners- on an interagency joint programme to support key phases of the normalization processes, including transitional justice, local governance and economic recovery.
On the development front, two major global processes will have an important impact on the work of the UN in the Philippines: the recent “Food System Summit” and the upcoming “COP26 on Climate Change”. Both of them will structure the work of the UN on hunger, malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity, poverty and inequalities.
… We know, that “building forward together” will require significant financial resources. We have therefore set one priority with the government for the coming year which is to help set up a diversified financing framework that will leverage additional resources for COVID-19 recovery and getting SDGs back on track.
Finally, I would like to also highlight the contribution of our vast humanitarian community, made up of specialized government agencies, national and international NGOs, the Filipino private sector and community leaders. They represent the backbone of the humanitarian community in the country.
Thanks to their engagement, the Philippines Humanitarian Country Team ranked first in the 2020 Humanitarian Country Team world assessment on inclusiveness, and we are proud of such recognition.
…And, thanks to their long experience in disaster risk management, the Philippines was selected as a pilot country for the implementation of “Anticipatory Action” with a total of 380 millions of Philippine Pesos allocated the by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.
Together, we have achieved much in this extraordinary year.
It has not always been “smooth sailing”, especially for those most impacted by this crisis. But I think we will emerge “a little more skilled” to navigate the challenges ahead.
Ultimately the success of the United Nations team must be measured in the difference we make in people’s lives…. And most especially, the difference we make when we reach those who face the most difficult circumstances, at risk of being “left behind”.
It is my hope this year, that as we look ahead we will be able to use these lessons, strengthen leadership and continue to build our strong partnerships.